Vodafone Ghana’s controversial capped fixed broadband packages begin today for all new customers, but would start on December 16, 2012 for existing customers.
This means all new customers who sign on to Vodafone’s browser, streamer or downloader fixed broadband packages from today would have respective caps at the increased prices.
Browsers would pay GHC65 for a maximum 15GB, Streamers would pay GHC100 for 25GB and Downloaders would pay GHC200 for 60GB for one month.
Additionally, all categories of customers would pay GHC99 installation fee.
The new rates would become applicable to existing customer from December 16, 2012.
The company used to have numerous pacakges, including a browser package of GHC45 for an uncapped/unlimited access, but it said that is no more sustainable so it has gotten rid of that entry level package.
Vodafone Ghana CEO, Kyle Whitehill told journalists: “We have gotten rid of the entry level package because I couldn’t afford to offer the service at GHC45 – I just can’t afford to do that - I can’t make any money from that – I can’t invest more into the network do give a better service and I need to invest more to give customers a better service,” he said.
He said the cap was also to manage the service efficiently and prevent the one per cent of customers who consume huge data capacity for only GHC45 a month, from making the data experience bad for the 99% who consume less.
The move has generated some debate, with some customers giving notice of their intention to petition the regulator and government to intervene, and possibly going to court.
They have opened a dedicated Facebook page captioned "Stop Vodafone from Capping Broadband", and gotten over 2,280 members, with almost 400 signing to join the protest and the formal petition to the regulator and government.
Vodafone admits fault in starting uncapped service
Vodafone Ghana CEO, Kyle Whitehill
Kyle Whitehill admitted that it was entirely Vodafone’s fault that customers got to enjoy uncapped service at low prices in the first place.
“It is entirely unreasonable for someone to expect to pay a very small amount and do 24/7 downloading – it was our fault to start off with someone being able to do that,” he told journalists.
Whitehill also admitted that the manner in which Vodafone communicated the price increase and introduction of the cap without explaining to customers was not the best, and that could led to the disappointment and anxiety.
He therefore apologized for it and promised that Vodafone would put out a better communication to deal with the anxieties of customers in that regard.
Whitehill however insisted that GHC65 for 15GB is fantastic value comparable to what persists in the UK and elsewhere, and greater majority of customers could testified that they prefer that value because it is the best on the market.
“Try downloading 15GB on MTN’s mobile broadband and see how much that costs – so people would have to decide whether they want good value and better service or they want cheap and poor service,” he said.
Meanwhile some customers have argued that the 15GB cap at GHC65 is unfair to those overwhelming majority of customers who consume less than 15GB, because in trying to weed out the minority that consume huge capacity, Vodafone is punishing the majority of customers.
Others also argue the cap would make it difficult to Facebook, Tweet, Skype, do live streaming on Youtube, post videos and pictures easily, and thereby further widen the digital divide.
But Whitehill said that is an absolute untruth because the average Vodafone browser consumes up to 4GB a month doing facebook, skype, Youtube, twitter and all that, adding that it is just about 300 customers who consume the huge capacities for downloading movies consistently even though they are on browser packages.
“The only person who can consume 15GB a month is someone who is using the data for industrial reasons and it is pretty much someone who is downloading heavy stuff 24 hours a day,” he said.
“It is just a group of hysterical people complaining about a cap on fixed broadband which is not different from what is going on elsewhere in the world – but the economics of business is very simple – if I have to reinvest into the business I need to generate revenue and make profit and you guys have killed my network with their huge consumption of capacity so I need more money to build more capacity,” Whitehill said.